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Last Updated on December 16, 2020

7 Beginner Yoga Exercises for Men to Increase Mobility

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7 Beginner Yoga Exercises for Men to Increase Mobility

Isn’t amazing how the culture of the (physical Yoga) Hatha Yoga evolved mostly among women? Are we men ashamed to practice this body-mind-spirit wisdom because it became a women’s thing, or discriminative of the idea that we men are tough enough and don’t need this kind of “activity”?

We know that the practice of Hatha Yoga was brought to our western culture in the 20th century by masculine Yoga masters, and that mostly men are the creators of the original Yoga Sutra of Patanjali approx. 200 B.C.E – 200 C.E., known also as Raja Yoga or King’s Yoga – the basis of all other Yoga forms practiced around the world.[1]

Keep in mind that Yoga goes much deeper than the physical posture and breathing, yet they are the start and the basis for the inward journey of self-inquiry and self-discovery. The deeper you immerse in the practice, the more you’ll happen to find out about it. An Asana – aasana[2] or Yoga posture is practiced with a purpose to mobilize the body and mind for achieving mental skills. This tells us that Yoga indeed is great for men.

Not long ago, when I invited a friend of mine to a Yoga Asana session I was teaching, he looked at me discouraged with a shy smile on his face, saying “Really, Yoga for men? I don’t know about that. Me, with this belly, tense as I am, it would be an embarrassment to show myself in front of the other more flexible people, let alone perform postures.” I smiled back, and with encouraging voice told him “You always talk about getting in shape! Just come over please and see how simple yoga exercises can change the way you feel about yourself!”

With the 7 exercises that follow, in just an hour, we succeeded to remove his misconceptions he had about yoga for men, and changed his attitude positively. Although he was never fond of practicing in groups, he got hooked up – he liked all the beginner postures and started practicing at home regularly and diligently.

The most important and ideal Yoga posture are: “sthirasukhamaasanam” – steady and comfortable posture. Sthira meaning steady, stable and strong and sukham meaning comfortable, easy and peaceful, and aasana meaning body posture or pose.

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This is the entire instruction from the whole Yoga Sutra (YS, 2.46-2.48) on how a Yoga posture ought to be performed. As long as you apply the elements of stability and comfort to your body posture and align it with your breath (YS, 2.47), you perform the aasana correctly.

Every man who wants to gain control over his physical and mental well-being and achieve a healthier lifestyle has the reason to get into Yoga. And here is the deal, in the next seven Yoga exercises you’ll see how to get into Yoga safely and successfully. Get ready and get healthier now!

1. Tadaasana – The Mountain Pose (Variation A – Ideal Alignment)

    1. Stand up on your feet (see type A), preferably bare feet so you can connect to the ground. Breathe deeply and slowly.
    2. Feet aligned with the hips.
    3. Kneecaps and thigh muscles slightly contracted.
    4. Pelvis leveled horizontally.
    5. Chest open.
    6. Shoulder blades relaxed.
    7. Connect the tip of the thumb with the tip of the index finger – energy re-circulation.
    8. Face muscles relaxed (eyes slightly closed, mouth slightly open).
    9. Breathe gently in this position.
    10. On inhalation, your head is pulling (cranially) upwards, lengthening the spine.
    11. Create a virtual thread inside your body from the heels up to the crown – tip of your head.
    12. Breathe gently, make sure your whole body is aligned as instructed.
    13. Connect to the thread and notice its movement.
    14. Stay in this position for 12 breaths – 4 sec. inhale and 6 sec. exhale – approx. 2 minutes according to the deep breathing exercise no. 1 in my previous post.

    When practicing physical Yoga, we are counting breaths instead measuring time. Aligning the breath with the body posture is an element for the connection with your inner clock – a closer look on what’s going on inside you – inner awareness. The goal of the Mountain Pose is:

    • Stabilizing the nervous system through breathing.
    • Building energy and releasing tension.
    • Stabilizing the movement of the thread (inner stability) through the help of breathing.
    • Developing inner awareness.
    • Awareness of inner movement of body’s stability (the strength) and comfort (the easiness and lightness).
    • Creating a rhythmical breathing.
    • Improving focus, concentration and observation.

    2. Virabhadraasana – The Warrior Pose (Variation)

      1. From Mountain pose exhale gently make a step forward (approx. 3 feet) with your right foot (see picture above) and slowly bend you right knee so your pelvis sinks (only as far as it is comfortable) towards the floor. Tip: Place left knee on the mat or a pillow if your muscles can’t support this posture.
      2. Make sure your body weight is balanced 50/50 on both legs.
      3. Inhale gently, reach fingertips towards the sky – push palms together, chest is open, shoulder blades relaxed – go down.
      4. Breathe consciously, deeply and rhythmically (abdomens relaxed). Be aware of the expansion of your groin area as you inhale.
      5. Focus your gaze on one point and remain in this position for five slow, deep breaths (or for as many as it feels right for you).
      6. Concentrate completely on the contractions of your thigh muscles and the pressure on your hip joints. Balance your weight 50/50 on both feet.
      7. Build energy with each inhalation!
      8. Release tension with each exhalation!
      9. Don’t let the muscle contraction intensify too much and disturb your breathing rhythm. Float the pelvis up and down to balance the intensity of the muscle contraction.
      10. Do the same with your arms. The moment you feel that the muscle contraction of your shoulders disturb you breathing, spread and lower the arms.
      11. Exhaling, make a step back, lower your arms and come back to Mountain pose.
      12. Have a break with one long, deep breath.
      13. Repeat the same (step 1 to 11) with the left foot.

      Make three rounds (3 x right foot, 3x left foot). The goal of the Warrior Pose is:

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      • Building energy and releasing tension.
      • Stretching and strengthening thigh and gluteus muscles.
      • Stretching hips (groin muscles) and mobilizing hip joints.
      • Strengthening back muscles.

      3. Trikonaasana – The Triangle Pose (Variation)

        1. From Mountain pose, spread your feet approx. 2-3 feet laterally. Left foot 0°, right foot 90° to the right (adjust the degree of your feet as you see fit. Tip: For better alignment and results do this pose against a wall and adjust your posture with the hands).
        2. Inhale gently, spread your arms at the height of your shoulders (palms facing forward).
        3. Further slow, deep inhalation lengthens the spine upwards.
        4. Slowly exhale and from the lowest vertebra begin to bend to the right (vertebra for vertebra, from the lowest upwards). The left hip goes lightly to the outside. Slowly! When bending you must feel firm and comfortable. Your right palm lays on your right kneecap (or lower, if you are more flexible). Your left hand stretches up vertically following the bending of your spine.
        5. Focus your gaze on one point and remain in this position for five slow, deep breaths (or for as many as it feels right for you). Feel the flexibility of your spine and any tensions in the back, legs or pelvic area.
        6. With each inhalation build up energy and with each exhalation release tension. Slowly adjust your pelvis, torso, neck, etc. if necessary during your rhythmical breathing.
        7. With an exhalation, slowly, come back into position no. 3.
        8. Have a break with one long, deep breath.
        9. Repeat the same (step 1 to 8) going to the left.

        Make three rounds (left and right). The goal of the Triangle Pose is:

        • Building energy and releasing tension.
        • Mobilization of spine, pelvis area and groin muscles.
        • Mobilization of lower back (lumbar spine) and shoulders.
        • Strengthening superficial and core back muscles.

        4. Malasana – The Squat Pose

          1. From Triangle pose come into Mountain pose and for a five deep gentle breaths, rotate the pelvis (in both sides) to align your muscles, tendons and ligaments.
          2. Spread your feet approx. 2-3 feet laterally, open both feet approx. 45° outwards.
          3. Inhale gently extending the whole body upwards, palms together pushed to the chest.
          4. Exhale gently, go into squat lowering your pelvis – keep your back straight as you go down. Your upper body leans slightly forward and your elbows touch the inner side of your knees. Tip: Lower slowly only as much as you feel comfortable. If you have to inhale on your way down, just do it only to be able to exhale lowering further. The goal is to squat so your buttocks touch your heels, but you go only as much as your posture feels steady and comfortable.
          5. Find your optimal position and stay there for five gentle breaths (or for as many as it feels right for you). Chest remains open at all times, push your elbows gently against your knees so you stretch the groin muscles.
          6. Do gentle moves in this posture so you align your hips, thigh muscles and lower back optimally.
          7. Use your thigh muscles to come up to Mountain Pose, but only after you have exhaled 50% of your air volume (don’t stand up while your lungs are under pressure full of air).

          Repeat this five times (adjust repetition as you see fit, if you feel comfortable and energetic do more than five, if not, do less). The goal of the Squat Pose is:

          • Building energy and releasing tension.
          • More flexibility in groin muscles.
          • Stretching and strengthening lower back muscles.
          • Mobilization of hip joints.
          • Strengthening thigh muscles and knees.

          5. Bhujangasana – The Cobra Pose (Variation)

            1. From Mountain Pose exhale gently and lower down to Squat Pose, place your palms and knees on the floor and gently stretch your body onto the floor. Your forehead touches the floor, your palms are placed right next to your chest – below your shoulders.
            2. Relax your whole body, have a gentle deep breath, feel the connection of your whole body with the floor. Put a light pressure on your palms, as preparing for a push-up.
            3. Inhaling gently, slowly lift up your head and neck and feel the pressure 50/50 on your hands and pelvis area.
            4. Using the strength of your arms come up vertebra for vertebra beginning from the lowest one. The upper back, neck and head are straight, chin muscles relaxed, mouth slightly open. As you’re half way through, inhale further to open up the chest maximally and erect your upper body (only as much as possible). Remember, the posture must be firm and comfortable.
            5. Exhale through your mouth and let the weight of your upper body hang on your shoulders. There should be light pressure on the lower back. Adjust the position of your hands on the floor so your shoulders support the weight of your upper body optimally.
            6. Take five slow deep breaths in this position and feel the pressure (or relieve) on different parts of your body.
            7. Experiment – adjust the position of your torso moving it, especially paying attention to your lower back.

            Repeat five times. The goal of the Cobra Pose is:

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            • Building energy and releasing tension.
            • Mobilizing each spine vertebra.
            • Strengthening arm, shoulder and back muscles.
            • Stretching groin muscles.

            6. Chaturanga Dandaasana – The Four-Limbed Staff Pose (Variation)

              1. From the cobra pose – body and forehead on the floor, inhale deeply – put your palms close to the chest, put your toes on the floor, preparing for push-up.
              2. Exhale, lift up your head, tighten your abdomen muscles, use the strength of your arms and lift up your body just a few inches.
              3. You are in four-limbed staff pose, take five gentle, deep breaths (adjust body height accordingly, if necessary put your knees on the floor as support).
              4. Exhale, come back to the floor – relax the whole body placing the forehead on the floor.

              Repeat this exercise three times. The goal of the four-limbed staff pose is:

              • Building energy and releasing tension.
              • Stabilizing all muscles involved.
              • Strengthening back muscles, anterior shoulder muscles, chest and arm muscles.
              • Strengthening thigh and gluteus muscles.

              7. Phalakaasana – The Plank Pose (Variation)

                1. From your relaxed position on the floor, inhale deeply, place your palms close to the chest, lift up your head, put your toes on the floor, preparing for push-up.
                2. Exhale through your teeth, tighten your abdomen muscles, use the strength of your arms, and push-up your body to come into a plank pose.
                3. Adjust your palms or feet to find the ideal position and stay in for five slow deep breaths. Tip: To mobilize (strengthen and flex) your body, do variations of this exercise by slowly lowering the pelvis (when exhaling) – the knees touch the floor and balance the pressure between the arms and knees.
                4. Exhale, come down to the floor and relax your body. Inhale – feel the energy coming in, exhale – feel the tension leaving your body.

                Repeat this exercise three times. The goal of the plank pose is:

                • Building energy and releasing tension.
                • Strengthening chest, arm, and shoulder muscles.
                • Strengthening overall back muscles and lumbar spine area.
                • Strengthening thigh and cough muscles.
                • Building endurance and flexibility.

                Your Yoga Session is finished. Spend a moment lying on the floor breathing gently and deeply, and store all the movements and experiences you have undergone in this practice. Now having more strength and vitality, take this experience and apply it constructively in your daily life. Know that you will come a step further in your next practice and experience a new insight.

                Final Thoughts

                The practice of these Yoga exercises should take some 45-50 minutes, however you can change the repetitions and number of breaths according to your physical and mental fitness.

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                Looking at all these simple yet highly beneficial postures, we can conclude that apart from the physiological benefits as mobilizing and strengthening the body, more important benefits out of these exercises are:

                • The development of mental skills such as focus, motivation, observation, confidence, concentration by turning inwards through the focus on gentle breathing.
                • The regaining of vitality and building of stamina and resilience through the repetition of movement.
                • The reduction of stress and neuroticism [3] as a result of the above two.

                The benefits mentioned above are perceptible when a balanced flow between breath and body movement is created.

                Yoga can take you to a new beginning for a prosperous change that sets new goals with great motive for improvement. Let these 7 Yoga Exercises be your goal.

                Make a routine (in your own rhythm – harmonically) by practicing these exercises every single day. You will see positive physical and mental changes in a matter of weeks.

                And if you choose to be a part of a yoga class don’t worry about how you look, and what you’re going to wear as long as your clothes are comfortable. Stay focused on what you want to achieve on a physical, mental and spiritual level.

                Keep in mind that everything you need for that new change in your life is sitting right here within you. Start to practice and the process of achievement will unfold! I salute the spirit in you!

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                More About Yoga

                Featured photo credit: Artem Beliaikin via unsplash.com

                Reference

                [1] Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy: The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali
                [2] Wikipedia: Asana
                [3] NCBI: Neuroticism

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                Marcin Gil

                Marcin is a spiritual being just like anyone challenging to uncover what we already have โ€“ spiritual freedom.

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                Last Updated on October 4, 2021

                5 Best Exercises for Weight Loss at Home

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                5 Best Exercises for Weight Loss at Home

                With the lines of work and home becoming increasingly blurry, it’s no wonder why we struggle to find the time to prioritize our health. Particularly with weight loss, it’s often difficult to manage the ever-present constraints around work, children, time to exercise, and the feeling of exhaustion at the end of the day.

                Taking the effects of stress and the rise of remote work and work-from-home situations, we need to be far more tactical in our weight loss pursuits. Quite often, these exercises for weight loss at home aren’t even fitness-related.

                Firstly, let’s look at a standard day in the life of a busy professional or parent to really understand the battlefield in which we need to operate.

                We all have 24 hours in a day to work with. Knowing how we spend that 24 hours is crucial when learning where time will be best spent for our weight loss journey. Setting unrealistic expectations can be a quick way to end up back at square one.

                • Sleep: 8 hours (parents, if you’re lucky)
                • Work: 8 hours (sometimes more)
                • Children: 2 to 4 hours (includes pickups, drop-offs, and play)
                • Meal Preparation: 1 hour (at a minimum)
                • Household Activities: 1 to 2 hours (because someone’s got to do it, right?)
                • Total: 20 to 22 hours

                Taking into account that switching between tasks takes time and cognitive space, we can start to understand why people just want to sit and scroll through social media at the end of a day. We also haven’t factored in the work commute if you have to report to the office.

                Just realized you now have minimal time to yourself? This might start to explain why you struggle to gain momentum in your weight loss journey. Let’s work out how to take back the initiative:

                • Automate – Are there any tasks you can automate? If you’re fortunate enough to be gainfully employed, maybe it’s time to hire a cleaner or have ready-made meals delivered to your door. It doesn’t have to happen every night, but removing the decision of “what’s for dinner?” can be a great way to reduce stress and free up brain space and time.
                • Optimize – If you’re time-poor with kids, it’s time to optimize your activities. Turn screen time into playtime outdoors, and get them to join in on your activities. If your children are old enough, it might be time to start offering pocket money for chores and meal preparation. This strategy helped me stay fit as a single parent. By getting out and active with my son, I doubled my return on investment by staying fit and enhancing my relationship.
                • Eliminate – We’re only human. Sometimes, we simply have too much on our plate due to our high expectations. Take a look through your daily tasks and work out what can be removed.

                Now, go through this exercise yourself. What potential spare time do you have to work with? If the answer is none, you might want to keep reading.

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                Exercise Selection: It’s Not All About the Burn

                No equipment? No problem.

                So, we’re finally tracking the elements that matter. It’s time to start leveraging exercise to accelerate our weight loss journey. Alongside focusing on individual exercises that help with weight loss at home or caloric expenditure, we’re going to focus on another method to help keep you consistent and accountable for the long term: interest.

                Interest has been linked as one of the key motivating factors to maintain consistency towards a goal. By choosing a form of exercise that your body and mind can enjoy, your chances of weight loss success are far greater.

                Here’re the 5 best exercises for weight loss at home:

                1. Low-Intensity Interval Training (LIIT)

                Maybe the body isn’t what it used to be, and intense forms of training simply just aren’t safe anymore. Also considering the body’s response to stress, it might be in our very best interest to choose low-intensity activities that we can repeat daily.

                Mobility and movement flows have risen in popularity in recent years. This form of exercise focuses on restoring range of motion (ROM), improving stability, and returning people to activity. Some exercise options include:

                • Quadruped Rocks
                • Frog Stretch
                • Hip Prying
                • Scapula Push-ups
                • Hindu push-ups

                Below is a 10minute warm-up flow that shows you how to put all of this together:

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                2. Yoga

                Yoga is another perfect example of LIIT methodology that can be advanced as your ability improves. Focusing on mobility, stability, and range of movement using only your body weight, it’s a perfect entry-level activity for those that may have lost their way on their weight loss journey.

                3. Calisthenics

                Strength training at home can be difficult when you lack equipment or experience. An obvious path to building strength at home is calisthenics. Starting with just the following basic bodyweight movements:

                You can begin your journey with no equipment and build to quite an advanced level. Here are five movements you can look to master over time are:

                Depending on your ability, choose movements that allow you to progress safely over time. There is also gymnastics-based training you can move towards if your body is ready for a more demanding form of training.

                4. Aerobic Exercise

                Another underrepresented form of exercise, aerobic exercise is often overlooked for its sexier counterparts like strength and HIIT. With the prevalence of obesity nearly tripling between 1975 and 2016 and the major cause in adults being cardiovascular disease, it makes sense to focus on activities that improve cardiovascular or heart health.

                Another benefit is that it can be as simple as getting your steps in, going for a swim, or going for an easy ride or run. Phil Maffetone pioneered the Maximum Aerobic Function (MAF) Method that almost anyone can adopt regardless of fitness level and experience.[1]

                Here’s a 30-minute session of aerobic exercises you can try:

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                5. High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)

                High-intensity interval training is a great way to elevate the heart rate and get the endorphins flowing. It can also be super time-effective, giving you a great bang for your buck. Try sequencing some of the movements and exercises above together with minimal rest to keep your heart rate elevated. Be sure to select movements that suit your current level of fitness and ability.

                Here’s a HIIT workout that takes little time and is suited for any level:

                Chipper 60

                Complete all reps of every exercise for time. Exercises can be done in any order and repetitions to complete the workout.

                If you can’t do jump squats, regress to normal squats, and don’t be afraid to change the leg raises to a 60-second plank if you need to. Finish up with some light stretching or foam rolling.

                What Also Matters: Sleep, Stress, and Stimulants

                Sleep, stress, and stimulants, also known as the hamster wheel of death. Tracking these elements gives us the power to finally stop relying on our ever-depleted stores of discipline and motivation to get the job done. It will also highlight the self-destructive habits that sabotage your weight loss journey.

                Simply put, stress affects stimulants, sleep affects stress, and the vicious cycle continues.

                Sleep

                Are you getting enough sleep? It’s well documented that sleep is an important factor in weight loss and recovery.

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                “Restricted sleep and poor sleep quality may lead to metabolic disorders, weight gain, and an increased risk of obesity and other chronic health conditions.”[2]

                Start this journey by tracking how much sleep you’re getting. Certain wearables can also track the amount of movement and time you spend awake or in lighter sleep cycles. Getting enough time in REM or deep sleep is critical for weight loss.

                Stress

                We don’t need to be fancy. A simple daily measurement out of ten indicates how much stress we think we are under. Using this number, we can observe the effects that sleep, stimulants, and exercise have on our stress levels, allowing us to deploy the right strategy for our weight loss goals.

                Stimulants

                Stimulants can be classified as anything we put in our mouths. Tracking calories, alcohol, and caffeine is a great way to observe, predict, and avoid trends or at-risk periods of overeating and destructive behaviors. Tracking this is aligned with how well we sleep, and our stress response gives us enough information to start forming better weight loss habits.

                Work to identify the trigger, observe the response, and then look to adjust.

                Final Thoughts

                Whether you’re fighting fit or returning to activity, the best exercises for weight loss at home are the ones that you can do day in day out that you enjoy. Think of exercise for weight loss as we do for compound interest. Consistently and regularly making deposits may not show immediately, but with time, they give you the momentum you need to reach your goals.

                Featured photo credit: Olivia Bauso via unsplash.com

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                Reference

                [1] PhilMaffetone: Maximum Aerobic Function
                [2] SleepFoundation.org: Why is sleep so important to weight loss?

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